Common Humanity
with Dana Belletiere, LICSW, MSED

Be On Purpose

Get Motivated: Using Lists to Create a Balanced Daily Schedule

I don’t really like the word “motivate” at all. To me, it seems like a dressed-up “should,” which is on my least-favorite-words list, and carries with it a sense of dread and obligation: I need to motivate myself to go jogging. You need to motivate yourself to do your homework. Let’s get motivated to clean the house. None of these things sound particularly inspiring (to me, anyway. If you love cleaning, kudos to you. Also please feel free to come over and sprinkle your motivated cleaning magic all over my house anytime). 


Anger Is An (Entirely Normal & Useful) Energy

A question for the ladies: How many of you are uncomfortable with your anger? If someone takes advantage of you, hurts you, shames you, dismisses you, do you sometimes suffer in silence rather than speak up? Do you agonize about how you might confront the individual that made you feel small in the first place? Do you worry about how you might be perceived, not just by this individual, but by other people, if you...


Dealing With Unhealthy Family & Friend Relationships: A Brief How-To

The problem of how best to deal with difficult family members or friends comes up routinely in therapy sessions. This applies to relationships that are sometimes manipulative, shaming, lacking in boundaries, or emotionally abusive. There’s often a heavy dose of the “shoulds” in these sessions: “I should be able to attend this family gathering; I shouldn’t care what my mom thinks, I should be able to talk to x on the phone for ten minutes, etcetera. The fact is that wanting health in one’s relationships with one’s family and friends is a very normal desire, and fair to aspire to. 

How to approach taking care of yourself when dealing with unhealthy family/friend relationships? Here’s a few suggestions:


On Writing and Rewriting (and Rewriting) the Rules.

In therapy sessions with clients, we seem to spend an awful lot of time talking about rules. My clientele (and myself) are generally rule-oriented folks - having a set of structures helps us to feel safe, ordered, and in control. 

Rules come in all shapes and sizes: religious affiliations, spiritual philosophies, cultural trends and dictates, or personal codes. Having these rules can be a part of taking care of the anxious Parts of oneself, and is usually not overly harmful or problematic. 


Stop “Shoulding” All Over Yourself: A Few Thoughts on the Moralizing of Food & Eating.

One of the most interesting parts of being a therapist that specializes in disordered eating is becoming intimately familiar with the "shoulds." Disordered eating patterns appeal to those of us that feel safe in the regimen of rules, and quell our near-constant anxiety with the promise that, as long as we keep doing things in a precise and "right" way, things will turn out okay. When our inner Rebel turns up and pushes us outside the confines of our prescribed "should" behaviors, we experience shame and guilt. Sometimes we punish ourselves.
"Shoulds" are powerful little suckers. 


Confrontation: On (not) Saying What We Need, Out Loud (under our breath, to ourselves)


The challenge of direct and healthy communication is a regular topic that comes up in therapy sessions (and in daily life, for all of us). Sometimes, we find ourselves mired accidentally in reality tv-worthy dramas. Unnecessary disputes result from assumptions made but never expressed. Differing opinions aren’t fully unpacked and people assume the worst of one another. Sometimes, unfortunately, there is an (un)healthy dose of silent treatment with which to contend. 

Straightforward communication...


In Pursuit Of Real Health: Why Dieting Isn’t “Healthy”.


One of the more pervasive (and exasperating) ideas I hear in therapy sessions is the notion of pursuing weight loss and dieting in the name of "health." I am speaking specifically about the vast sea of us that are otherwise perfectly medically healthy, but, for one reason or another (ahem, cultural pressures and social media, ahem), are looking to diets to change our size and make ourselves smaller. We inevitably frame this as "eating healthy" or "getting healthy." In my experience, it's rare that health is the outcome of dieting practices.

Health is physical, emotional, and mental. When we place all of the emphasis on the pursuit of "health" purely as it relates to the size and shape of our bodies, we rob ourselves of the significant health benefits of socialization, spontaneity, fun, and flexibility. We corner ourselves into a regimen that robs us of the joy in life. 


On My Nana’s Funeral, When They Showed Up.

When my Nana died, I told my husband that he didn't have to come to the funeral with me. I'd made peace with her passing some time before, and I felt confident that the funeral would be more of an exercise in paying my respects than a major emotional experience in which I'd need support. And, since we live far away, it made more sense for him to stay home, go to work, take care of our cats - in the scope of things, it didn't seem to me like a situation that required an escort. So, he stayed, and I went alone.